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David's Diner delivers great taste to its homestyle meals in Springdale

| Wednesday, March 6, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Valley News Dispatch
David's Diner owners Lisa and David Speer display the country eggs benedict next to a table honoring POWs at the Springdale Township diner on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013. Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch

Background

After years of working in kitchens and restaurants owned by others, David and Lisa Speer decided it was time to work for themselves.

Last fall, they opened David's Diner along Freeport Road in Springdale Township, beside John & Gerry's Quality Fruit Market.

“I was tired of making money for someone else,” David Speer says. “Plus, I like the commute now — it's about a mile from my home.”

Speer has worked in the food industry since he was 16, most recently as an executive chef for the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel at the Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Washington County. Meanwhile, Lisa Speer has worked for two decades as a waitress at restaurants including the Olive Garden and Creighton Hotel.

At David's Diner, David Speer manages the kitchen while Lisa Speer oversees the front of the house.

Atmosphere

“We tried to create a very homey atmosphere,” David Speer says.

They succeeded: The wait staff was friendly, chatty yet competent. Several of the customers appeared to be regulars, but we weren't the only first-timers in the joint.

The small diner would be easy to miss if not for the American flag waving out front, but judging by the crowded parking lot on the weekday afternoon we visited, the word is out.

Almost all of the dining room's dozen tables were full, as were many of the seats at the U-shaped counter. The two exterior doors were constantly opening and bringing in new customers, inviting in a brisk February chill to the dining room that we chased away with hot coffee and homemade soup.

With their rigs parked across the street, several truckers parked themselves on stools to fill up on hearty sandwiches. Meanwhile, at a table beside us, a group fresh from a shopping trip grazed on a few of the five salads on the menu.

The butter-yellow walls are decorated with an understated mix of Americana, antique kitchen implements and Pittsburgh sports memorabilia.

An Iraq combat veteran and Purple Heart medal recipient who spent 17 years in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, David Speer says the display of patriotism was important to him.

The dining room includes a small table with a white cloth, red rose and a single empty chair that honors prisoners of war and soldiers who went missing in action, a display Speer says is more common in American Legions and VFW halls. The diner offers a 10-percent discount to veterans.

“I wanted to bring awareness to our veterans,” Speer says.

Menu

We were impressed with David's menu that goes beyond the typical greasy spoon fare. You'll find grilled and fried diner requisites, along with lighter fare like wraps and salads, including My Lisa's Salad ($8) with dried cranberries, red grapes, sunflower seeds and grilled chicken.

Two of us started with the soup of the day, Chicken and Rice Soup ($2.50 for a small bowl, $4 for a full bowl). This clearly housemade soup was full of large hunks of chicken with celery, carrots, mushrooms and white rice. It was the perfect starter on a brisk day.

The Hot Turkey Sandwich ($8) sounded like a perfect dish to order at a diner, and it this one didn't disappoint. No lunch meat was used to make this sandwich — it was large hunks of roasted turkey piled between two slices of white bread and served with an enormous helping of smashed red-skin potatoes, all swimming in a sea of gravy.

The Batter Fish on a Dish ($8.50) satisfied our Lenten-induced craving for fried fish. A long, battered piece of white fish was served with a generous bowl of coleslaw and french fries cut fresh in David's kitchen.

The Pulled-Pork Hoagie ($7.50) was served on an 8-inch bun filled with barbecued shreds of pork. Like all of the diner's sandwiches, unless you request otherwise, it is served with homemade potato chips. We were given two batches of chips — one order was perfectly crisp and seasoned; the other had just a few duds — chips that stuck together in the fryer and didn't cook thoroughly.

The Turkey B.L.T. Wrap ($7) was filled with sliced turkey, bacon, lettuce, tomato and ranch dressing, all served in a whole-wheat wrap. It also came with chips.

The One ½ Pound Burger ($6, add 50 cents for cheese) was a hearty sandwich served on a ciabatta roll. We added the tasty fresh-cut fries.

We couldn't leave without sampling dessert. Pumpkin and pecan pies were available the day we visited; we tried the Pumpkin Pie ($5). It was housemade, with a creamy filling and thick crust.

Lisa Speer told us the diner has several people who make desserts for them, including Pajer's Farm Market and Bakery. David Speer said they also serve vanilla ice cream from the legendary Glen's Frozen Custard in Springdale.

As pleased as were with our lunch, we're looking forward to trying out David's Diner's breakfast options, especially the Hangover Cakes ($6.50) with chocolate chips and Bear Country Eggs ($7) — three eggs served over ham and home fries with Speer's special jalapeno corn bread.

Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or lhayes@tribweb.com.

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